No, this isn’t about Al Gore’s movie on global warming, which, by the way, has received two big thumbs up from the Climate Scientists at Real Climate, the only critics who really matter in this debate (as opposed to the pseudo-science malarkey discussed in the anti-Gore ads sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an astroturf organization funded by Big Oil).

Instead, this is a story about what the Bush administration intends to do to journalists whenever they publish a story that exposes our government’s thuggish behavior:

The government has the legal authority to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday.

“There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility,” Mr. Gonzales said on the ABC News program “This Week.”

“That’s a policy judgment by the Congress in passing that kind of legislation,” he continued. “We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected.”

Ah, yes. National Security. We certainly can’t have journalists running around disclosing government secrets. Or at least we can’t have certain secrets revealed. Other ones – like say, revealing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on nuclear proliferation issues involving Iran – are of little concern, since those advance the political agenda of the Bush administration to silence and intimidate its critics.

However, when journalists reveal those secrets which expose the illegal and criminal underside of the Bush administration’s actions, they must to be prosecuted for espionage. Why? Because if there is one thing we have learned over the last five and a half years, it is this:

The Bush regime will go to any lengths to prevent the American people from discovering the inconvenient truths about its activities.

(cont. below the fold)

Let’s review a few case studies in Bush’s war on Truth, shall we?

When Paul O’Neill resigned as Secretary of the Treasury and then said that Bush planned to invade Iraq even before 9/11, he was derided in the press by senior White House officials as a nut job and a loser trying to make excuses for being fired:

“We didn’t listen to [O’Neill’s] wacky ideas when he was in the White House, why should we start listening to him now,” said a senior official.


White House press secretary Scott McClellan brushed off O’Neill’s criticism Saturday. […]

“It appears that the world according to Mr. O’Neill is more about trying to justify his own opinion than looking at the reality of the results we are achieving on behalf of the American people.”

Or what about Richard Clarke, counterterrorism czar for both the Clinton and Bush administrations who claimed President Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney ignored him and other terrorism experts when they tried to warn the White House of the imminent danger posed by Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks? What was the White House response? Why, they immediately attacked his reputation and credibility, and tried to diminish his long record of public service:

. . . Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh’s show, acted as if Clarke were a lowly, eccentric clerk: “He wasn’t in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff.” […]

In a further effort to minimize Clarke’s importance, a talking-points paper put out by the White House press office states that, contrary to his claims, “Dick Clarke never had Cabinet rank.”

They also recruited their allies in the radical right to smear Clarke’s character, such as Ann Coulter’s absurd claim that Clarke was a racist and a sexist because he couldn’t get along with Condi Rice as his boss, and Rich Lowry, who made the case that Clarke was a incurable liar and glory hound in his hit piece for the National Review Clarke’s Self-Immolation: Auditioning for the Dishonesty Czar

But this was small potatoes compared to what they did when Seymour Hersh exposed the torture and abuse by Americans at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Who did the administration blame for those obscenities? The White House lawyers who wrote and approved the legal memorandums justifying torture, John Yoo, David Addington and Alberto Gonzales? The General in charge of Iraq at the time who approved the use of torture, Richard Sanchez, or General Miller who came to Iraq specifically to implement the “harsher interrogation techniques” employed at Guantanamo Bay? Or did Donald Rumsfeld take the fall for his role in making torture the official US policy in the War on Terror?

Of course not. They went after the Army MP’s who had been caught on videotape and in photographs abusing Iraqi detainees, ordering court martials for all the low level Army grunts and describing them to the media as merely a few bad apples, rogue soldiers who acted without orders or official sanction by their superiors. They also attempted to pin the blame on General Janis Karpinski, overall commander of the US military’s prison system in Iraq at the time of the abuses even though she had no authority over the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib, or of the military intelligence personnel who conducted those interrogations. She was reprimanded and demoted, despite the fact that Abu Ghraib prison had formally been turned over to the control of a Colonel Pappas in Military Intelligence in December 2003.

As for the courageous soldier who blew the whistle on the torture at Abu Gharaib, Specialist Joseph Darby, let me quote to you this excerpt from his Wikipedia profile:

Since the disclosure, Joseph Darby and his wife, Bernadette, have been the victims of harassment in their community [1]. They have been shunned by friends and neighbors, their property has been vandalized, and they now reside in protective military custody at an undisclosed location. Bernadette said, “We did not receive the response I thought we would. People were, they were mean, saying he was a walking dead man, he was walking around with a bull’s-eye on his head. It was scary.”

These are just a few of the multitude of examples one could employ. The list is endless. A White House that has suppressed reports by its own scientists when their views did not comport with the official White House talking points on global warming, hurricane intensity, or evolution. A White House that engaged in an active campaign to discredit Ambassador Wilson for having the gall to dispute the basis for President Bush’s phony claim that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger, and then attempted to coverup that conspiracy when it appeared they may have broken the law in revealing Valerie Wilson’s classified position at the CIA. A White House that lied about the warnings Bush received about the danger Hurrican Katrina posed to New Orleans.

From the intimidation of a government actuary warned not to tell the truth to Congress about the true cost of the Bush Medicare Prescription Drug program, to the the massive reclassification of previously declassified government documents, to the stonewalling on Freedom of Information requests, this has been an administration which prefers that ordinary Americans not find out what their Government has been up to.

In every instance where the disclosure of White House mistakes, illegality and impropriety has occurred, this White House has waged all out war against those who have exposed the ugly truths that Bush, Cheney and Company had sought so desperately to conceal beneath a web of lies, deceit and character assassination. So we should not be surprised that the latest tactic by the Bushies is to threaten the prosecution of the New York Times and Washington Post journalists for revealing the illegal NSA spying program, and the horrendous existence of secret torture camps run by the CIA in Eastern Europe, respectively. Information is power, and the ability to control information about government activity is what leads to dictatorship. The surest path to that result is to criminalize the work of investigative journalists who expose government wrongdoing:

Asked whether he was open to the possibility that The New York Times should be prosecuted for its disclosures in December concerning a National Security Agency surveillance program, Mr. Gonzales said his department was trying to determine “the appropriate course of action in that particular case.”

“I’m not going to talk about it specifically,” he said. “We have an obligation to enforce the law and to prosecute those who engage in criminal activity.”

Though he did not name the statutes that might allow such prosecutions, Mr. Gonzales was apparently referring to espionage laws that in some circumstances forbid the possession and publication of information concerning the national defense, government codes and “communications intelligence activities.” […]

Mr. Gonzales said that the administration promoted and respected the right of the press that is protected under the First Amendment.

“But it can’t be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity,” he said.

When reporters are deemed criminals for exercising their rights under the First Amendment, there is no first amendment right to free speech for anyone. In short, according to the White House, all those who dare to expose wrongdoing by this administration are guilty of a crime: the Crime of Speaking the Truth.

For President Bush, and his various minions, supporters and assorted hangers-on, nothing could be more inconvenient.

(Cross posted at Daily Kos and at My Left Wing)

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